There were not too many open spots left in the Rio parking lot so we parked all the way in the back corner. A security guard rolled up in the Rio mini-van and asked us if we wanted a ride since it was 106 degrees. Of course, we said yes. He drove us up to the main entrance of the convention center. Thanks again to Joseph who spared me from sweating my ass off just to cross the sizzling pavement on my way to work.
Saturdays are the most congested day at the Rio. The weekend warriors fly into Las Vegas with grandiose dreams in pursuit of poker glory and a bracelet in the $1,500 donkfests that attract close to 2,000 players. Since it's also the weekend, plenty of slow-moving tourists flock to the Rio to check out the spectacle of the World Series of Poker. Most of them are newbies and are overwhelmed by the experience. They don't know about the no flash photography rule as every few minutes a rapid flash of white light illuminates a table with Phil Ivey or Doyle Brunson sitting at it.
And if you get caught roaming the hallways on a break, it resembles Mardi Gras minus the tits and stench of spilled beer and urine. Notions of claustrophobia attack the senses as the hallways are flooded with poker players and spectators trying to get outside for a smoke break, grab a snack at the Poker Kitchen, seeking out the shortest line to the bathroom, and recanting a bad beat story via their cell phones.
Then there's the amateur paparazzi who seek out photos of Jen Harman or pester Eli Elezra for an autograph while he's on break for his final table.
"Eli, remember that hand on High Stakes Poker, season 1 when you had 5-3s and Negreanu flopped a set but you rivered a flush on him and he went on tilt? Remember that?" a woman wearing a WSOP visor and a PokerStars t-shirt said to Elezra as he walked out of the bathroom.
He shrugged his shoulders and stopped to take a photo with the woman. And as soon as the pros stop, the rest of the cockroaches scurry out and bombard him with more photo requests as a symposium on High Stakes Poker hands break out in front of the Poker Kitchen. Elezra had his mind on beating Scotty Nguyen heads up, but he handled the massed with class and dignity.
Not every pro does that. I've seen a few scoff at the autograph seekers. I've witnessed WPT champions act surly towards photograph requests. Some pros are truly shy and cherish their privacy. Some are simply on a break and are more concerned with examining their play than chatting up with fans on the rail.
As one pro mentioned to me, "The spectators often forget that we're at work. I get one 15 minute break every two hours. The last thing I want to do is stand there like a cardboard cut out and pose for photos."
I sat in the Sao Paolo cafe and ate breakfast (at 1:30pm) with Change100 as we watched hundreds and hundreds of players doing the walk of shame after they busted out of the $1,500 event. A few of them were on their phones moaning about the bad beat while others seemed pleased to have played in a WSOP event. They spent the $1,500 on the overall experience and can now die peacefully because they played in at least one WSOP event. You can't criticize those players since they help swell up the prize pool.
With a 3,000 starting stack and one hour levels with swift escalating blinds in addition to playing in a field of "3,000 monkeys" as Minneapolis Jim Meehan described those events, the action goes super fast. Half the field busts before dinner break. Three hundred or so players are left by Midnight and by 2am, the money bubble bursts at 200. 90% of the field is decimated by the end of Day 1. And every time I see that happen, I'm in awe.
Michalski was one of the early casualties. He had Barry Greenstein seated to his right. He got crippled early and fought back before he busted out when he lost a coinflip.
My assignment for Day 16 was to cover the Day 2 Event #25 $2,000 NL. 130 players survived Day 1. Liz Lieu and Brandon Schaefer had cashed in the event and were trying to make it to the final table. Since the money bubble burst just as play ended on Day 1, the beginning of Day 2 featured a blizzard of eliminations. Twenty players headed to the rail in the first fifteen minutes of play. Liz Lieu survived the initial onslaught and doubled up with her shortstack, but she busted out in 89th place.
Steve Dannenmann played in Day 1 of the $1,500 donkfest. He said he played super fast and super loose and tried to build up a stack. When he realized that was not happening and it got close to the starting time for Day 2 of Event #25, he moved all in blind. He had to talk his opponent into calling him and finally busted so he could head over to play in Day 2. Sadly, Dannenmann didn't go deep and he busted out in 90th place just before Liz.
Brand Schaefer struggled early on. He had several short stacks at his table to his left that would jam the pot if Brandon opened up for a raise. He patiently waited for his spots as he slipped out of the Top 10 in chips. With four tables remaining, he was in the middle of the pack and got crippled when his A-10 lost to A-Q. He busted out on the next hand in 31st place. Despite not making the final table, Brandon has a 20th place and a 31st place finish at the 2007 WSOP. That's not too shabby.
Kazuki Ikeuchi playing in Event #25
(Photo courtesy of Flipchip via PokerNews)
I had a great crew working with me for that event including Dave, Zeke, and Slippers one of our Aussie guys. And I also got to work with Jen Creason for a bit. If you haven't heard, PokerNews drew some criticism over the chipcounts over the first two weeks. In order to address that issue, our big wigs went out and hired the best possible person in the universe to do that... Jen Creason otherwise known as PokerWire Jen. A couple of years ago, Jen started PokerWire. The neice of Howard Lederer and fiancee to Andy Bloch left the business at the end of the summer last year to finish up her degree at Duke. Now, we have her working part-time with PokerNews. Obviously she can't work everyday but I'm confident that the overall quality of chipsounts will improve thanks to her joining our ranks. No one can count a table faster than Jen and I'm super pumped to have her on the team. Hopefully this recent hire will bolster one of the weaker aspects of our coverage. In baseball terms, it's like signing a left-handed power-hitter a few months into the season.
There are 12 players left in the $5K HORSE event including Phil Ivey and Bill Gazes. Phil Ivey supposedly bet $2 million that he'd win a bracelet in 2007. I'm not clear on who exactly bet him if it was Doyle Brunson, Chip Reese, Bobby Baldwin, or Lyle Berman. It could have been all four pooling their money. I don't know. I'm on the case and trying to find out. But here's the coolest part... Ivey is getting 5-1 odds. If he wins a bracelet on Day 17, he cashes in for $10 million in a prop bet. By the way, first place pays $275K in that event. That's pocket change compared to the possibility of a $10 million pay day. I'd keep an eye on that event to see of Ivey can make a final table and win a bracelet. He came close already this year with a second place finish in the $5K Stud event when he lost to Chris Reslock. Click here to follow the action in Event #26 $5,000 HORSE.
I'll be covering Day 2 of the $1,500 donkfest. There are 135 players remaining. Click here to follow the action in Event #27 $1,500 NL Hold'em.
Bouncin' Round the Room on Day 16
I spotted David Sklansky walking down the hallway of the convention center with a hot woman who had her hand in his back pocket. Was she a pro? At this point... we don't know.
Vinnie Vinh is alive. I saw him playing in the $1,500 event. We even got a photo of him at Poker News. He didn't seem too thrilled about getting his photo snapped, but he's not dead like many of us thought after he failed to show up on Day 2 of an event.
(Photo courtesy of PokerNews)
Gavin Smith told me about a hand he misplayed during the Event #26 $5,000 HORSE event. I prefer hearing pros talk about hands in that manner instead of hearing bad beats stories. I usually can't learn too much from a bad beat, but listening to pros examine every detail of a hand with remarkable clarity is both fascinating and educational. Smith is an exceptional player and he broke down the action in the most simplest turns and was able to objectively look at the situation. All of this went down during one of his breaks as he sipped a rum and coke and kept saying, "Pauly, I really played that bad." Gavin Smith busted out a few minutes later in 21st place in between Doyle Brunson and Australia's Billy the Croc.
Last 5 Pros I Pissed Next to...
1. Thor Hansen
2. Brandon Schaefer
4. Ben Roberts
5. Alex Jacob
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